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In Disbelief

November 16, 2009

DSCN73762009 13.1 Fort Lauderdale
Bib Number:446
Overall Placement: 330 / 2030 (16.3%)
Age Group Placement: 18 / 218 (8.3%)
Gender Placement: 63 / 1048 (6%)
Chip Time: 1:48:56

Really, that’s how I feel about my finish at this race. I didn’t feel prepared for it. I felt like my training had been lackluster–I’ll talk more about how and why in my race autopsy in the next couple of days–and instead of peaking in the last couple of weeks I felt overtired, overstressed, overtrained, and unprepared. My runs felt stale; my legs felt tired. In the last week before my race I began to get more and more nervous as the race approached and I knew my target pace was unendurable for even 4 miles in cool temperatures. I surrendered my dream of a personal best and started praying for a decent race–I just wanted to avoid the humiliation of coming in over two hours and logging a personal worst at the distance.

I’d trained at least once a week with Little G, whose own personal record at the distance was 1:54. Our goal was the same: 1:50 or thereabouts. But as we approached race day, clouds of doubt filled both our minds. As we drove down to Fort Lauderdale, we agreed to run this race like all other races we’ve run together. We’d stand at the start together and run our own race from there, agreeing to find each other at the end. Though we mostly run the same pace, we didn’t want the responsibility of keeping the other one’s pace. It’s very freeing to run a race with that understanding.

We’d found a hotel with a full kitchen, so Little G had made us some baked ziti, bread, and salad. It was fabulous not to have to hunt down a decent dinner once we’d arrived in the city. We just heated up that pasta, sat down, and ate. When dinner was down we both did a little of our Bible study and then turned in.

We woke early for the race and had our bananas, then walked two blocks or so to the start. It was in the mid-60s; Little G had found a couple of fleeces for us to wear and discard at the start. We went to the porta-potties and turned in our gear bags, then sat down for a few minutes. With about thirty minutes til the gun, we decided to go potty again. The lines were ridiculously long, but the bank of porta-potties was huge and we figured the lines would move quickly. When we were going back to the one mass corral, G asked me what time it was and I casually replied it was 6:10. “6:10?” she asked–gun time was 6:13. We ran back to the corrals and joined a mass of people trying to find a way in or over. We found an entrance near the nine-minute milers and got to work trying to down our Hammer gels, get a sip of water, and discard our fleeces. We had just enough time to pray and get ready–thank goodness we’d adjusted the display on our Garmins and silenced the distance alarm earlier. The gun went off and we were racing.

I left Little G almost immediately, trying to get into my rhythm without paying too much attention to my pace according to Garmie, though I thought maybe I was going too fast–mile 1 came in at 8:35. I was trying to pace off people that looked like they were running a smart race–not surging or breathing hard, but able to talk, maintaining an even, easy rhythm. Mile 2, still in the city, came in at a better 8:45.

At mile 3 in this race you go through a tunnel, and I always love that. You go downhill first, and doing that affords you a view of the sea of people going uphill in front of you, a mass of runners moving up and down in a wave of running steps, everyone moving together yet separately. A steel drum band plays here, their notes echoing off the tile of the tunnel, and it gives me a surge of energy even as I swear to run this part of the race with my head, ignoring the people who surge past me on the downhill and think, see ya on the uphilll, sucker. I trusted my bridge training for the work on the way up; as soon as I hit the bottom curve I tucked my head under and started working–attack the hill–and looked down to make sure I wasn’t working too hard. Well, the tunnel tricked me and I lost my signal. I had no idea what my pace was. But I felt strong, and I went with it, picking people off as they slowed to the uphill. Joke was on me; as I came out of the tunnel and into the curve at Broward Boulevard, my legs felt absolutely done. No wonder–I’d run mile 3 at an exhausting 7:48 pace, my fastest of the race. Inexcusable, even with a dead GPS.

Revived, Garmie resumed his job of pacing me as we headed onto Las Olas, past beautiful yachts that did a lousy job of distracting me from my aching legs. But race day isn’t training day, and I kept pushing for an 8:20 mile 4. Little G came up behind me just as we approached the bridge toward A1A, and I was thankful to hear her voice and see her Brooks skirt. We hit the beachfront road together, and started Indian-filing our way through the crowd, threading the needle for each other as we found a spot to hit our pace without having to jostle for position. We found a place where we thought we could hang out and cruise at our pace for the northbound miles. We thought the turnaround was at mile 7½, so we figured we had a couple miles to go. Mile 5 came in at 8:12. I’d intended to take my gel at mile 6, like I did last year, but I knew my body needed the push earlier, so both G and I downed our Hammer gels earlier, at the mile 5 water station, and continued the push north. Happy middle- and high-school cheerleading squads and bands were out cheering for us and I was thankful for every scrap of encouragement.

Mile 6 came in at 8:30, mile 7 at 8:18, and I started looking for the turnaround that seemed to never come. By mile 8 it seemed to take forever for me to recover from my walks at water stops–I had started to run not next to Little G, but just behind her, just pacing off her by watching her pink Brooks skirt and refusing to lose her. Mile 8 came in at 8:24 and finally, a half-mile later, there it was, the turnaround. This was an emotional push–I knew I was on the home straightaway and all I had to do was bear down and push for home. But it was also a reality check: my time stood at 1:07 and I still had a long 5 miles to go. I could get my PR, but not without the hardest of work. And yet I knew it was too early to bear down. Mile 9 came in at 8:14.

At this point, it became a mile-by-mile race. There was sand on some portions of the course, and on A1A it was windy, requiring us to put up our arms, put our heads down, and run smart. My sunglasses were on, and I was trying to focus on nothing but my running. I was trying to do math as I ran–always a tough proposition for me–so I’d have no regrets later. Mile 10 came in at 8:24–slower than I needed it to be–and now the clock stood at 1:24. So this was it: I figured could get my PR if I didn’t clock anything above an 8-minute mile for the rest of the race*.

Without telling Little G, I consciously picked up my pace and left her. It was a decision made instantly, but not necessarily out loud. I just had to go. I was trying to keep my pace above 8:00 by Garmin-hawking, but also trying to pass people, knowing that in these later miles people are slowing down and that it’s deceptive to pace off of them. I downed my last gel at mile 10; at mile 12 I threw water over my head. I could feel my piriformis staring to ache; my right toes felt about to break off–I kept pushing. I had no idea where Little G was but I thought she was still behind me. I remembered people I had lost earlier in the race, unable to keep up with them, and pushed myself to reel them in, to push past them, to keep them from catching me.

At each mile marker, I checked my time–I only had twenty seconds off the clock versus my chip time, and I knew it was going to be really close. With a quarter mile to go I tried to dial it in and realized my right calf was about to seize. I was afraid I’d lose it completely within sight of the finish line and had to pull back just a little–but kept running as hard as my leg would let me. I ran under the clock reading 1:49–yes, a personal best–and could barely bend over to receive my finisher’s medal without upchucking on the sweet, smiling volunteer who said, “Well done, Karina! What a good run!”

Little G finished about a minute behind me. We missed each other in the chute completely but caught up at our pre-arranged meeting spot. We had post-race massages, found our gear bags and changed into dry shirts and flip-flops, and ate pancakes. Following that, we went to check our official finish times, but lost our heads completely when we found G had placed in her age group. Therefore, it wasn’t until I was home several hours later that I found out that my chip time was one minute, forty seconds off my previous personal best at the distance, recorded exactly one year earlier at this same race.

Whew! I have lots more to say about this race and my training leading up to it, but will leave that for another day. For today, my gratitude, for on this race day my God must have been smiling on me. Everything went right, and I’m happy with my new personal best. On to the next challenge: 26.2.

*I did not, in fact, manage to run those last three miles at sub-8 pace. My last splits: 8:25, 7:57, 8:23.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. run4change permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:30 pm

    great job

  2. the Ringmaster permalink*
    November 16, 2009 4:26 pm

    Thanks, J. You doing okay? I’ve been checking out your blog and noticed no new entries. Hoping you’re running and feeling good. I’ve been thinking about and praying for you. Thanks for coming to check on me.

  3. November 17, 2009 8:33 pm

    congrats on the new pr!! you should definitely be excited about that, even if your training and mood wasn’t where you wanted it to be. unfortunately one of the ‘tricks’ of running is walking (running) that fine line of solid-training and over-training yourself. glad you were able to hold up ’til race day and grab a new pr!

    can’t wait to hear more of your thoughts.

  4. November 19, 2009 1:04 pm

    Congrats on the PR. When I saw the title of your post, I was afraid that you had missed it — glad I was wrong.


  1. Tested | Mile By Mile

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